Poetics of the Flesh
This chapter focuses on the social dimensions of the constitution of flesh, using the term “social-material flesh” to emphasize the intertwining of the social and material dimensions of what Merleau-Ponty calls the “flesh of the world.” The term describes society as incarnations of social relations, taking place through perception, interactions between human beings, and the materialization of human activities in the nonhuman world. The chapter further discusses how social arrangements shape perception, in dialogue with Linda Martín Alcoff. Judith Butler’s description of how bodies are gendered through performative reiteration of social norms informs the discussion of how bodies are shaped as they act in a social-material world. It also shifts the language of Butler’s accounts of performativity by emphasizing the materiality of “social norms”—the fact that we encounter these norms concretely in the bodies of other human beings as well as in the physical structures of the world.